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I Got Bitten By a Dog While On The Job Can I Sue the Dog Owner?

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A lot of jobs require frequent contact with home owners. For example there is the US postal service, package delivery companies, utility company employees, gardeners, tree trimmers, and cable and satellite.

Usually these employees are employees, but sometimes they are not. For example some satellite companies contract installers to install services and some cable companies likewise do the same. Some package delivery companies also contract delivery service. This often results in some confusion as to what the victim bitten by a dog can do.

The first thing in analyzing the victim’s right is to determine if the victim was an employee or a contractor. The reason why this is important is to determine what type of remedies the injury victim has.

Under California law workers are covered and entitled to benefits under workers’ compensation insurance for on the job injuries. It does not matter how the injury came about in the majority of cases. There are few exceptions for example when workers are unlikely to receive benefits when they intentionally cause their own injury or when workers suffer injuries because they were drunk or high. In the vast majority of situations work injuries resulting entitle the injured worker to benefits. Benefits can include medical treatment and some compensation for the time off work. These benefits are available regardless of how the dog bite occurred or why it occurred. There is also another area of law called tort law where the injured worker is entitled to make a claim.

The California dog bite statute has some very specific requirements which have to be met to be able to pursue a claim. One of the requirements is that the person have a right to be where the dog bite took place. Generally speaking the person bitten while on the job has a right to be where the dog bite took place, but not always. For example when a person trimming a tree drops branches onto an adjacent property and then decides to enter the adjacent property for the purpose of taking the branches, that would be trespassing. If the worker is trespassing, then the worker has to show that the dog owner was negligent and not just the dog owners. People often keep dogs on their property to protect their home and their property, so it is unlikely that a dog bite taking place on private property would be negligence when the victim is bitten when trespassing.

When trespassing the worker is unlikely to be successful in bringing a lawsuit against the dog owner, but this is where the workers’ compensation insurance comes into play, as it would cover the injury victim even though the injured worker would have no claim against the dog owner.

There are many instances were the dog owner is liable for the dog bite to the worker. For example if a worker knocks on the door and the dog rushes out when the dog owner opens the door and the dog bites the worker, then the dog owner would become responsible. In these cases a whole new scenario is presented. Here the worker can sue the dog owner and make a workers’ compensation claim at the same time. It does not mean the worker would receive a double benefit.

In cases where the worker is entitled to make a workers’ compensation claim and the dog owner the worker is required to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for whatever benefits were provided to the worker. Generally speaking workers’ compensation insurance is much more generous that a jury. So a dog bite attorney is not likely to accept such a case. When the dog bite attorney accepts the case the attorney would be required to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurance company first before the worker can receive anything. In most situations there would be nothing left for the worker. Some dog bite attorneys not familiar with the workers’ compensation rules often get burned.

Workers’ compensation insurance laws gives employers and the insurance companies the right to sue the person causing the injury to recover the benefits paid out. In some cases where the worker hires a dog bite attorney to pursue the personal injury claim, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier also hires an attorney to pursue their right to reimbursement. In these cases the workers’ compensation insurance carrier gets reimbursed and has incurred attorney fees, so basically the dog bite attorney is entitled to nothing and the injury victim is entitled to nothing. Most workers’ compensation attorneys are not skilled enough to handle civil cases as their expertise is in administrative law and the dog bite attorney does all the work, but the insurance carrier can take the entire settlement.

The circumstances are different when the employer has not workers’ compensation insurance. In these cases the worker can file a claim with the State of California to try and obtain some compensation for the on the job dog bite or the worker can make a claim against the dog owner. The case with the state can often take longer than a claim against the dog owner and in this instances the worker bitten by the dog may elect to pursue the claim against the dog owner. When the worker elects to not make a workers’ compensation claim and only pursue the dog bite owner then the worker would receive some compensation from a claim. Dog bite attorneys are interested in pursuing these claims.

Similarly there are situations, where the dog bite victim is left with no remedy. This happens when there is no insurance. It could be that the employer does not have insurance for its workers and the dog owner has no insurance as well. In these cases it is prohibitively expensive to pursue the matter, because two attorneys would need to hired one for the personal injury and one for collecting. After medical expenses the victim is essentially left with nothing. There are instances where there are assets where the dog bite attorney would be interested in pursuing, but there are instances where there are no assets. For example of a homeless person owns a dog and the dog bites you, what can you get from the homeless person?

The number of possibilities is enormous and each case is different so it is best to consult with an experienced dog bite attorney to determine the best course of action.

June 29, 2017 |
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